Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Recusant (English Catholics) Collection

In the 1960s, Father James Molloy, a Jesuit priest and book collector, started to buy surplus books from English Catholic religious institutions. From his purchases he formed several collections of like material that he sold to various American rare book libraries. The Harry Ransom Center was one buyer; others were Georgetown University and Boston College. The Center acquired several thousand books and periodicals published by and for English Catholics during the period they were under severe legal disability, or roughly from 1549 through 1829. Practicing Catholics at that time were called recusants: thus the name of this collection.

Bibles, liturgical works, church history, theological disputes, sermons, hagiographies, devotional works, and dogma are present for the entire period; much of it was published surreptitiously. Perhaps because the books were acquired from religious houses, there is little non-Catholic or anti-Catholic material, and belles lettres are almost absent. On the other hand, one can find a wealth of material on aspects of English, Scottish, and Irish social and economic history, including the Jacobite movement, evidence of the migrations of religious houses and orders from Britain to the Continent, illustrations of the fate of Catholic families and individuals, and documents and monographs that reveal the decline almost to extinction of the Catholic community in Britain in the 18th century.


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